HONYWOOD, Sir John, 4th Bt. (?1757-1806), of Evington, Kent.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1784 - July 1785
17 Apr. 1788 - 1790
1790 - 1796
10 Mar. 1797 - 1802
1802 - 29 Mar. 1806

Family and Education

b. ?1757, 1st s. of William Honywood of Malling Abbey by Elizabeth, da. of Thomas Clack of Wallingford, Berks.; bro. of William Honywood*. educ. Corpus Christi, Oxf. 11 Feb. 1775, aged 18. m. 13 Dec. 1779, his cos. Hon. Frances Courtenay, da. of William, 2nd Visct. Courtenay, 1s. 6da. suc. fa. 1764; gdfa. Sir John Honywood as 4th Bt. 26 June 1781.

Offices Held

Capt. Kent yeomanry 1794-7, Kent riflemen 1798.


As Member for Steyning on the family interest, Honywood had supported Pitt’s administration. In 1790 he contested both Steyning, where he was assailed by the Duke of Norfolk, and Canterbury, another family stalking ground. He was defeated at Steyning but successful at Canterbury. In 1791 he was also seated, on petition, for Steyning, but made up a quarrel arising out of this with Norfolk, opted to sit for Canterbury and a year later sold out to Norfolk.1 In April 1791 he was listed as an opponent of the repeal of the Test Act in Scotland. On 6 Sept. 1791 he applied to Pitt for the vacant office of receiver general for Kent for himself or his son, not yet five years old. Pitt thought the proposal ‘ridiculous’ as far as his son was concerned and returned a polite but evasive answer. Honywood wrote again, 14 Sept., that ‘if you wish to serve me and my family, you cannot do it so effectually, or at a period when it can be more acceptable’. His colleague George Gipps, also interested, was prepared to give up his application in Honywood’s favour. At an interview Pitt still would not commit himself and on 4 Oct. Honywood wrote:

When my parliamentary support was necessary to you I never even debated on the propriety of the measure. Fully convinced that the only obstacle to my appointment is the Duke of Dorset, I have this day written to him, expressing the strong claims I have on you, and requesting him to think of some other appointment for his friend, and that he would not oppose my wishes; should his Grace persevere, I think it proper to advise you, that I shall be under the necessity of opposing him, and his connexion in this county, whenever an opportunity shall offer. Let not Canterbury be an obstacle, whatever may be urged on that head, for I can assure you, that the sense of the city is much against Lord Daer. He has to my knowledge lost ground since the election, and can have no prospect of success.2

Pitt was ‘surprised and hurt’ and Honywood disappointed, though he continued to apply to Pitt for patronage for his friends3 and to give a silent support to the ministry. On 3 June 1795 he was a government teller. He opposed the abolition of the slave trade, 15 Mar. 1796.

In 1796 Honywood canvassed Honiton, where his brother Edward was rector, on the Courtenay interest with every prospect of success, but gave it up for Canterbury, where he was defeated. That election was voided and despite a further defeat he and his colleague were seated on petition. In 1802 he avoided another contest at Canterbury and fell back on Honiton. He is not known to have opposed Addington’s administration; indeed, he was ministerial teller against Pitt, 3 June 1803. Yet on Pitt’s return to power his wife wrote, without his knowledge, so she claimed, to the prime minister to beg him to appoint Honywood a lord of the Admiralty with a house attached, as he was his ‘firm and zealous supporter’. Nothing came of this and on 11 June he joined the opposition to Pitt’s additional force bill.4 In September he was listed at first ‘Addington’, then ‘doubtful Addington’ by the Treasury. After voting with the majority for the criminal prosecution of Melville on 12 June, he was listed ‘Sidmouth’ in July 1805. On the formation of the Grenville ministry he appealed to the Prince of Wales’s friendship to obtain him a place at the Admiralty or Treasury board though so ill that he had to employ an amanuensis. He assured Grenville, 30 Jan. 1806, that as ‘an old and independent Member ... I shall be happy to act under your administration’. He got nothing, and died 29 Mar. 1806, aged prematurely from gout and financial distress. His imprudence had encumbered his estate and in 1812 his widow appealed to the Prince Regent to come to her rescue, claiming that neither Sir John nor her ‘unprincipled’ son had provided for her and that she was about to be imprisoned for debt.5

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: P. A. Symonds


  • 1. Morning Chron. 16 Apr. 1791; see STEYNING.
  • 2. PRO 30/8/138, f. 280; 145, ff. 230, 232, 234; Rose Diaries, i. 112.
  • 3. PRO 30/8/102, f. 162; 145, ff. 228, 236, 238, 240.
  • 4. See HONITON; PRO 30/8/145, f. 242; Sidmouth mss, Henry to J. H. Addington, 12 June; Morning Chron. 13 June 1804.
  • 5. Fortescue mss; Gent. Mag. (1806), i. 475; Prince of Wales Corresp. viii. 3365. About her son, see HYTHE and KENT.